Public Schools

Virginia Lags National Average in State Paying for Low-Income Students


The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis released a study a week ago entitled \”Weighing Support for Virginia's Students,\” the outcomes which indicate that Virginia provides about half as much funding for low-income students as compared to other states. What is the news is troubling as it comes on the heels of research by the National Center for Children in Poverty, which showed that approximately 34 percent of children in Virginia reside in low-income families.

Children from low-income families are unfortunately already in a disadvantage before even entering the school system. Studies show that youngsters of low-income families have significantly worse math and reading skills by the time they begin grade school. This issue is compounded whenever we take into account that children who live in poverty are often facing a slough of more issues such as hunger, unsafe homes, along with a insufficient parental guidance. Without appropriate systems in position, these problems persist up, resulting in low educational achievement overall minimizing lifetime earnings.

A wide body of studies suggest children who come from low-income families can reach the same levels of academic achievement as children from mid- to upper-level income families with adequate state funding. The Commonwealth Institute report discovered that it might cost around two-and-a-half times as much to make sure equal achievement. The additional funding will pay for such programs as early childhood learning, afterschool instruction, and remediation for struggling students, as well as higher salaries to attract the very best teachers.

The Federal Title I program was designed to ideally close the income education gap. However, we're finding that the use of an outdated funding distribution formula sends more Title I funds to richer school districts and less to poorer ones. Many of the problematic whenever we consider that in Virginia, most high poverty families live in pockets within school districts. The Commonwealth Institute report indicates that in Petersburg and Richmond City, a lot more than 40 % of kids are living in poverty. When limited Title I dollars (approximately $14 billion nationwide; $228 million in Virginia) are distributed amongst that lots of students, the results from the additional $1576 per \”formula count\” student in Petersburg and $1633 in Richmond City are unlikely to be positive. Nationally, almost half of public schools are designated as being permitted to receive federal Title I funding.

Outside of federal support, most states, Virginia included, do provide additional funding for each low-income student enrolled in a college. The amount each state provides, however, varies, with the national average being 29 percent more funding per low-income student.

The Virginia program, called At-Risk Add-On, falls well underneath the national average. Instead of utilizing a weighted formula by student, the At-Risk Add-On program provides districts with 1 -13 percent more funding for each low-income student, in line with the power of poverty. Which means that in districts using the highest poverty rate, schools get the full 13 percent additional funding. In areas with the lowest poverty rate, schools receive closer to one percent additional funding. With this formula, Virginia provided schools with between 14-19 percent more funding for low-income students-about 1 / 2 of the nation's average.

What can Virginia do to lessen the gap? Nevertheless there is lots of work to do when it comes to closing the wages education gap, the obvious step Virginia can take, and the answer presented through the Commonwealth Institute, is to increase funding for the At-Risk Add-On program. The think tank argues that Virginia should increase funding to mirror the level of offer the latest studies have shown is required. Enhancing the funding rate to become between 1 -25 percent allows Virginia to be in line with what other states are doing across the country. Moreover, increasing support for At-Risk Add-On would restore in regards to a quarter from the state funding which was cut from the program during the recession.

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